On International Women’s Day, we are inspired to challenge the barriers to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 5, gender equality, a fundamental human right, and a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.
We reflect on the impact of the pandemic through 2020 and 2021 which had a disproportionate impact on women, who have taken on more household responsibilities and educating their children from home, and also suffered the loss of jobs and income. Women make up 39 per cent of global employment but account for 54 per cent of overall job losses. Mckinsey reports that women’s jobs are 1.8 times more vulnerable to this crisis than men’s jobs.
Recovery can and is being aided by technology, we can take heart in the growth of mobile phone penetration. 83 per cent of women own a mobile phone and 58 per cent use mobile internet. Improving women’s economic access is good for their families, communities, and nations. Women in emerging markets invest 90 cents of every additional dollar of income into their families’ education, health, and nutrition (compared to 30–40% for men).
Women are good credit risks, they form the very foundation for stronger economies and actively work toward breaking the cycle of poverty. Women farmers produce 60% to 80% of the food in developing countries, and women own 60% of all global microenterprises. Increased investments in women’s economic participation are vital. Women need access to the full range of credit, banking and financial services and facilities essential to more fully develop their assets, their land and their businesses. Access to financial services are a key enabler for women to achieve financial independence and economic empowerment.
Let’s reimagine a world where the poor have their own identity through blockchain, which they can use to access essential services or finance, where the two billion unbanked poor can access the global financial system through a simple mobile phone and crypto. Now with mobile penetration and technology, we have the tools that will enable us to connect the bottom billion unbanked to the global economy, to provide digital identity to stateless people, to make micro grid solar power ubiquitous and to direct benefits to women and girls. Women are central to any true economic growth and play an integral part in generating acceleration in developing economies.
With increasing mobile penetration, we are witnessing a growth in the adoption of crypto in emerging economies and the 10 top countries with users of cryptocurrency globally, include Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, Venezuela, Colombia, and Vietnam. Chainalysis reports a trend in Latin America, Africa, and East Asia of people turning to crypto in order to preserve savings they may otherwise lose to economic turbulence. This is important for women, who are often the most marginalised populations. Women often lack appropriate identification documentation to meet financial institutions’ customer “know your customer” rules and remain unserved.
With a simple mobile phone, women around the world have the possibility of participating in the global financial system, from which they have been excluded.
For the most marginalised Sofie Blakstaad with Hiveonline it helps women’s groups to record their transactions on the blockchain during their meetings , growing an alternative credit score for microfinance institutions. They report savings groups are an effective vehicle to support and empower those in extreme poverty, through: increased rates of financial inclusion; strengthened women’s position in society; improved household business outcomes; bolstered resilience in the face of financial shocks and natural disasters and improved socio-economic status.
Community currencies are benefiting local businesses in Kenya through increased revenue; stable income for employees and Increased savings. Grassroots Economics is working on community currencies in Kenya where most marginalized communities in Kenya are made up of micro-merchants who are often excluded from using mainstream financial services due to high costs.
Mobile is key, female internet users were more likely than their male counterparts to access it exclusively via mobile. Celo is built for mobile first and aims to build a financial system that creates the conditions for prosperity for everyone. However in remote areas without power people have to walk to charge their phone anymore, they still have to walk to get reception. World Mobile is working to change that using all types of solutions to get to the village as cheaply as possible and give people the internet that they need.
We also need to use technology to shape social attitudes, family approval is a critical barrier preventing female mobile users from adopting mobile internet. Social attitudes towards women in technology can be an inhibitor, so using technology platforms to empower and encourage women will be an important enabler. Voice activation for reach is key, especially for those impacted by digital exclusion and poor literacy levels as well as those with particular disabilities, voice activation could have a profound impact. All content should be able to work with voice activation. Anu Bhardwaj, founder of SHEQONOMI, is focused on women-led podcasts built by women and powered by girls targeting the bottom billion. Technology allows the voices of women around the world to connect and empower each other.
Women are key to the global economy and control about $20 trillion in annual consumer spending and women represent a growth market bigger than China and India combined. McKinsey Global Institute found that $12 trillion could be added to global GDP by 2025 by advancing women’s equality. As well as investing in women entrepreneurs, invest in products that benefit women and girls. These include those that ease household and caregiving or improved safety for women; improve health and education for women and products that mitigate problems often disproportionately impacting women such as access to energy, clean water, safe housing.
Invest in women and technology – a game changer for anyone who is thinking about transforming women’s lives.